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Full text of "The Gay Genius"

THE BULL-HEADED PREMIER,                 105

temperament and style, a mixture of wit, learning, and intrepid
courage. Angered polemics alternate with cool, lucid reasoning. Now
he was despondent^ bitter, sharply critical and uncommonly forthright;
now he was arguing, citing examples, quoting from Mencius, Con-
fucius, and the histories to bolster his thesis. Adroit, sincere, and con-
vincing, it was written with profound emodon and sorrow at the state
of affairs. In his audience with the Emperor in January, His Majesty
had praised a memorial by him on educational reforms and asked him
for "straight criticism . . . even of His Majesty himself". Su Tungpo
took him at his word. It was his last desperate effort to make the
Emperor change his mind, when all high officials had left and all
chances were against him. He knew that he would be dismissed, if
nothing worse happened.

The two most important points for the modern reader are the
Mencian principle that the ruler derives his power from the people,
and the defence of free criticism on the principle of dissent in politics.
Su Tungpo warned the Emperor, a ruler is ruler, not by virtue of a
mythical "divine right" of kings, but by the support he derives from
the people. Let the king beware!

"It is said in the Boof^ of History, cln ruling over the people, I
feel as if I were holding six horses with worn-out reins.' This means
that no one in the nation is in a more precarious position than the
emperor himself. When the emperor and the people come together,
they are ruler and subjects; when they detest each other, they become
foes. But the line of division, determining whether the people go
with the ruler or against him, is extremely tenuous. He who is
able to command the support of the millions becomes a king, while
he who alienates their support becomes a solitary private individual.
The basis of the ruler's power lies, therefore, entirely in the support
of the people in their hearts, The -relation of the people's support
to the ruler may be likened to that of the roots to a tree, oil to thfe
lamp, water to the fish, rice fields to the farmer and capital to the
business-men. A tree dries up when its roots are cut; the lamp goes
out when the oil is gone; fish die when they leave the water; farmers
starve when deprived of their rice fields, and merchants go bank-
rupt when they have no more capital. And when an emperor loses
the support of the people, it spells his ruin. This is an inexorable
law from whose consequences no ruler can hope to escape. From
ancient times such has been always, the danger confronting a
ruler."

t

But how was the ruler to obtain the support of the people unless he
permitted the free expression of opinion? Su Tungpo went on to